AMD Radeon RX 6800, 6800 XT, and 6900 XT aim at Nvidia’s best

Welcome back to the high end, AMD.

For the first time since the days of the Radeon R9 290X—seven long years ago—AMD’s Radeon group is prepared to unleash enthusiast-level graphics cards that can do battle with Nvidia’s best and brightest. During the company’s second “Where Gaming Begins” event on Wednesday, AMD revealed a trio of Radeon GPUs based on a new RDNA 2 architecture, all armed with “revolutionary Infinity Cache” technology, sky-high clock speeds, and interesting synergies with Ryzen. They take direct aim at Nvidia’s RTX 30-series offerings, culminating in a $999 Radeon RX 6900 XT that seeks to seize the gaming crown from the monstrous $1500 GeForce RTX 3090 when it launches December 8—for $500 less than Nvidia’s beastly GPU costs.

The $579 Radeon RX 6800, meanwhile, will go toe-to-toe with the $500 RTX 3070 releasing tomorrow, and the $649 Radeon RX 6800 XT intends to challenge the $700 RTX 3080. Both launch November 18, about two weeks after AMD’s Ryzen 5000 CPUs hit the streets.

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While Nvidia’s recent gaming GPU releases went light with raw memory capacity, opting for an upgrade to faster GDDR6X VRAM instead, AMD equipped every high-end Radeon RX 6000 card with a substantial 16GB of standard GDDR6, plenty to handle 4K gaming well into the future. And while Nvidia’s RTX 3080 and 3090 consume much more power than previous GeForce incarnations, AMD claims it’s achieved its lofty goal of a 50 percent performance-per-watt increase compared to the original RDNA architecture, which makes the Radeon RX 6000-series XT graphics cards less power-hungry than their Nvidia rivals.

Yes, you read that right: Radeon GPUs will need less power than competing GeForce cards. My, how the tables have turned.

We’ll start by diving into the raw specs and performance claims for the Radeon RX 6800, 6800 XT, and 6900 XT, because we know that’s what you’re here for, but stick around afterward when we dig into key changes in the RDNA 2 architecture and new Radeon ecosystem features, like Smart Access Memory that ties into Ryzen 5000 CPUs and AMD’s new Infinity Cache. Those provide crucial additional context for some of the slides you’re about to see.

Radeon RX 6800 vs. GeForce RTX 3070

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Let’s start at the more affordable end.

The Radeon RX 6800 packs 60 compute units and a 1,815MHz game clock—90MHz higher than the rival GeForce RTX 3070’s rated Boost speed. More importantly, AMD’s card triumphs in memory capacity, packing a full 16GB of GDDR6 RAM versus the 3070’s 8GB. Nvidia pitched the 3070 as the ultimate 1440p graphics card, but it can do well in 4K games, too. That 8GB memory buffer probably won’t hold up well for 4K gaming as the years go on though, as some games already exceed it. The Radeon RX 6800 won’t suffer the same problem. Nvidia’s card enjoys a slightly lower total board power rating.

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